At the Helm

Tara Regan
Photograph by Michael D. Wilson

Tara Regan is the first woman to run both MDI boatyards for the Hinckley Company — which counts Martha Stewart among its fans.

[dropcap letter=”A”]fter buying my home on Mount Desert Island, I wanted a boat for exploring the coastline. It had to be a pleasure boat that I could easily learn to navigate, and it had to have room to hold family, friends, dogs, and provisions for a leisurely day on the water. Serendipitously, the Hinckley Company’s Southwest Harbor boatyard was a short drive away.

I worried that figuring out the design of a 36-foot picnic boat would be overwhelming, but the staff was so gracious, answering my every question during the yearlong process (and even letting a film crew shoot on several occasions for my television program!). For 18 years now, the boat has been a joy, taking me up and down the coast, from Maine to Long Island Sound, through squalls, fog as thick as pea soup, and moonless, starless nights — all without mishap. This boat has more than stood the test of time.

So I was excited to learn that Hinckley, an 89-year-old company, recently hired Tara Regan as its first female general manager, overseeing operations at two MDI boatyards. I look forward to working with her and her crew to keep my picnic boat as pristine as it was at its launch — and I’m happy that Maria Simpson, a former boatyard manager herself, could sit down and talk with Regan for Down East.

— Martha Stewart

How’d you end up in this line of work?

I’ve been on the water my entire life. When I was a kid, I’d take my little Sunfish across Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts in all sorts of weather and worry my mom. I started working at the local marina pumping gas and just worked my way up.

Does it feel like an achievement to be Hinckley’s first female general manager?

I put in a lot of work to get to where I am. I do feel that I have to prove myself on a day-to-day basis with my employees and my customers. I think that’s not just a woman thing: it’s true for everyone — we should be challenging ourselves every day, and it’s up to each person to accept those challenges and figure out how to deal with them. I don’t let gender stand in my way.

Is the gender split changing at boatyards?

In 15 years in this industry, I’ve seen it change. Not quickly, but I used to walk into an industry meeting and people’s reaction would be, “Oh my goodness! Are you in the wrong room?” Now I walk in and there’s a handful of women.

Our guest editor is fond of her Hinckley picnic boat. What do you think makes that style so distinctive?

Of course, the fit and finish is stunningly beautiful. Today’s picnic boat is lighter and faster, and we’re always evolving to take advantage of the latest technologies, but we still keep with the same lines and the iconic look that you can pick out anywhere.

Are you still a small-boat sailor?

I am. I race J/24s with some friends back in Cape Cod, and I’m looking for a team to join up here. I can’t wait to get out on the water.

You don’t worry about mixing business and pleasure?

I find joy in being on the water; it’s my happy place. So why not do something that’s also something that you love? Getting to see my customers enjoy their boats and their kids in their first boats, it kind of warms my heart.

— Maria Simpson

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